This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

The 12th Cavalry Mounted Band

17 October 2016

We can't see it but it's there in the air.
Just enough to make one shiver.
A not entirely unpleasant aroma

of oiled leather and horse sweat.

Of course there is more
that we can't smell,
but we see it behind the horses,
sweetening the green grass.

Adding to this unseen stew of odors,
there's a manly musk
of wool jodhpurs and felt hats.
And since soldiers will be soldiers
there has to be a robust bouquet
of cologne and hair creme too.  

We can't hear the music either,
but the horses, they are listening,
with ears turned back
in worried anticipation
of a sudden cymbal crash.

Some steeds are a bit impatient for a command,
as each animal knows its rider
and awaits the inward breath of an altohorn
as much as the nudge of a knee
to step off into formation.

It's what military training is
all about in the cavalry.

Learning the harmony and rhythm
of man and horse. 

It's what twenty-two U.S. Army bandsmen
of the 12th Cavalry regiment
understood when they lined up for the camera
at Ft. Brown, Texas in August 1924.

* * *

* * *

This impressive mounted cavalry band is pictured on a so-called yard-long photograph, approximately 9" by 36", the type of photo displayed on a wall of the post headquarters. This PDF viewer gives only a middling recreation of the original photograph which I've digitally stitched together from scans of six sections of the image.

{If anyone knows of a good image viewer for very wide format photos
that is compatible with Google blogger, I'd appreciate letting me know in a comment}

The mounted band is perhaps my favorite musical ensemble because of how these bands combined two seemingly contrary skills, instrumental musicianship with horseback riding. Learning to play a clarinet well is difficult enough without simultaneously mastering the control of a large horse that might take strong exception to a poorly executed tune. Few people in today's show business world aspire to acquiring such expertise. Yet not too many generations ago, a soldier with both musical and equestrian talent might find a career as a bandsman in a mounted cavalry band.     

Behind the band is the Ft. Brown parade field which understandably is quite large for the purpose of practicing cavalry drills. In the background are huge live oaks and bushy Rio Grande palmettos. In the center is the bandstand used for concerts minus horses. Though sepia tone photos seem eminently suited for army greens and khaki, I do regret we can't see if the horses are a matched set of bays. All red brown or are some blacks? Note also that one of the four clarinet players holds a smaller high E-flat clarinet, which despite its size, is a formidable weapon for any soldier to wield.

The band has two bass instruments, a helicon tuba on the right and a sousaphone on the left, which along with the bass drum are the only instruments that can be played competently with one hand while still holding the horse's reins in the other. There are three cornet players and one bugler, though all four undoubtedly knew the regulation bugle call book by heart.

Beyond the sousaphone and bass drum is a row of wood clad buildings, most likely officers' quarters. Notice that like the bandstand, the porches are wire screened. There is a parked car and two other wheeled vehicles in blurred motion. Is the middle one a baby carriage?

Located about as far south as one can go in the continental United States, Fort Brown was originally just an earthworks defense built in 1846 on the north side of the Rio Grande River by General Zachary Taylor. Originally named Fort Texas, the Mexican government considered it an outrageous provocation by President James K. Polk to place American forces below the official border which was then 100 miles north at the Nueces River. The incursion started the Mexican–American War (1846-48) which began with a siege of Fort Texas. During the action two American soldiers were killed, including Major Jacob Brown. To honor the major's death, General Taylor renamed the site Fort Brown, and in 1849, the city of Brownsville, Texas, was established just north of the fort's perimeter. The city of Matamoros, Mexico lies just across the river from Brownsville.

In 1848 Zachary Taylor would use his military fame to succeed President Polk as the 12th President of the United States. Unfortunately his term was cut short when he succumbed to an unknown digestive illness and died in July 1850.   

* *

* *

Brownsville TX Evening Herald
8 August 1924

In August the afternoon temperature on a parade ground in Brownsville, TX might hover around 100°+ F.  Most concerts by the 12th Cavalry Band were scheduled for later in the cooler evening with the band performing on the post bandstand. The band acted as ambassadors for Ft. Brown's army troops to Brownsville's and Texas' and Mexico's civilian communities. During the summertime in the 1920s the band gave public concerts twice a week. Their music programs usually began with a march, followed by an arrangement of an opera overture, a few light popular tunes featuring a solo instrument, and finished with a foxtrot. Cavalry horses were apparently very fond of dancing.

_  _ _

Brownsville TX Evening Herald
12 November 1924

The Bandmaster of the Twelfth Cavalry Band was named George A. Horton. Only one musician wears a visible rank insignia, the corporal and sousaphone player, third from left, but I don't think he is Horton. The soldier on far left is a better choice for bandleader, but he may have a pair of cymbals hanging on the back of his saddle and his uniform lacks any distinctive marks of a warrant officer, so I am not completely certain. Bandmaster George Horton was married and had two daughters with musical talent on violin and voice that sometimes caught the attention of the Brownsville newspaper. Horton also played violin and led the bandsmen when they appeared as an orchestra at the post's social soirees for officers and wives. Horton conducted the 12th Cavalry band from at least 1922 until 1929 when another bandmaster took over.

_ _ _


On the left side of the yardlong photograph is an inset photo of General John J. Pershing, (1860-1948). Pershing was then Chief of Staff for the United States Army, with the rank of General of the Armies. His illustrious military career began in 1886 as a young Second Lieutenant in the 6th Cavalry. Pershing served in both the Spanish-American  and Philippine–American wars, assigned at different times to the 10th, 1st, and 15th Cavalry regiments.

But it was his successful command of the Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916-17 that encouraged President Woodrow Wilson to chose him to lead the American Expeditionary Force in 1917. During his WW1 service Pershing took notice of the high musical standards of European military bands and their positive effect on their soldiers' esprit de corps. In 1922 Pershing established the U. S. Army Band in Washington, D.C., also known as "Pershing's Own", which became the premier musical organization of the United States Army. Pershing retired just two years later on September 13, 1924.

_ _ _

On the right side is another officer's portrait, Col. John M. Morgan, the commanding officer of Ft. Brown. An 1893 graduate of West Point, Morgan served in both infantry and cavalry units, and during WW1 commanded the 309th infantry, 78th division, winning the silver star and distinguished service medal.  Col. Morgan died in San Antonio, TX in November  1939 at the age of 71.

_ _ _


A lineup of a mounted cavalry band makes an impressive photograph.
In 1923 the Band of the 105th Cavalry Army Reserve
had their yardlong picture taken which then
took up a whole 8 columns of the Eau Claire, WI Leader newspaper.

Eau Claire WI Leader
2 August 1923

These next two photos are two small informal snapshots,
the opposite of the very large format,
and were most likely taken by a bandsman's box camera.
They are marked: Fort Brown Band  1929.

The band didn't ride horses to every engagement. Sometimes they waited around for an army truck. In my experience as a collector, photo postcards of cavalry bands marching on foot are much more common than photos of them mounted on horseback. The second photo is of the band's snare drummer showing how his instrument is cleverly attached to his belt so that it can be tilted for proper drumstick technique whether in saddle or off.

In August 1928 the Cass City, Michigan newspaper ran a letter from a hometown boy who was stationed as a member of the 12th Cavalry Band in Fort Brown, Texas. The soldier's name was Charles Kercher and he wrote the following to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Kercher.

Cass City MI Chronicle
31 August 1928

    Arrived here yesterday at 11:00 a.m. We left Chicago Friday at 4:00 p.m. and certainly had a fine trip. Most of the cotton here is ready to pick and it surely is a beautiful sight.
    The fort is located directly on the Rio Grande. The band hall is about two blocks from the International Bridge. Our town here of Brownsville is a short distance from the fort and about the size of Cass City. The walks are all lined with large palms and orange trees.
    Last night, I went across to Mexico (the town of Metamorous (sic)). From an agricultural standpoint, Mexico is fine. The cotton is nearly waist-high and all the crops are in abundance. But the towns all have narrow streets, all adobe thatched houses for the common people, and only the rich live in fine houses. The civil policeman of Mexico is practically powerless as the whole of this part of Mexico is under military rule and a troop is garrisoned in each town.
    The band here is certainly a fine company numbering about thirty. All of course are mounted, being inreality a branch of the 12th Cavalry. 
    We have rehearsals every morning and two concerts a week (open air) and we also play for retreat each evening and for guard mount and special drills and parades.
    The weather here is ideal as there is a steady gulf breeze blowing. We are twenty miles from the gulf. The horse coral here is a grand sight. Even the medical men have their horses. All of them are finely built and young as a horse for parade must be flawless because the musician must concentrate on his music and not stop to spur his horse on. If one horse lags or gains step the formation is spoiled. All the band horses are care for by the Headquarters Troop.
    Will close at it is time for retreat.

Unfortunately Bandsman Charles Kercher didn't mention the instrument he played.

Thirteen years later, the 12th Cavalry Band
posed for another photo at Ft. Brown.
This time without horses.

Brownsville TX Heraldo de Brownsville
11 July 1937

In 1937 the bandmaster was Warrant Officer W. G. Archambault, a regular army soldier with nearly 35 years of service posted to 19 different army bands! He began in 1903 as a member of the cavalry band at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, followed by the 11th cavalry band at Ft. Riley, KS and Ft. Des Moines, IA; the 14th Cavalry Band in Walla Walla, Washington; the 28th, 4th, 36th and 41st Infantry Bands. In 1917 on the advent of America entry into WW1 he was promoted to his first bandmaster assignment with the 341st Infantry Band in Camp Grant, IL. Archambault went on to lead bands at Camp Lee,VA, Ft. Thomas, KY, Camp Funston, KS and the Army Air Corp Band in the Panama Canal Zone. Between 1921 and 1923 Archambault was bandmaster for the 51st and 52nd coast artillery corps. He also directed the bands of the 2nd cavalry at Ft. Riely, and the 7th, and 8th cavalry regiments at Ft. Bliss, TX. He had been stationed at Ft. Brown since 1931.

If ever there was a band director
who understood the harmonics of musician and horse
it was Warrant Officer (Wilford) W. G. Archambault.

Brownsville TX Heraldo de Brownsville
11 July 1937

As the article in the Brownsville Heraldo de Brownsville states, the Twelfth Cavalry Regiment was formed in 1901 and was stationed mainly in Texas and the Philippines. But in the following years of WW2 it would be dramatically reorganized as the US Army converted traditional horse mounted cavalry units into a modern mechanized army. In 1937, even though neither horses or musical instruments had changed, the era of Bandmaster Archambault's horse mounted cavalry band was inescapably drawing to a close.

Change was soon to come for Fort Brown too. By 1943 the military decided the post's open fields were better suited as training ground for airplanes rather than horses and it was transferred to the US Army Air Force. In 1946 after the war, Fort Brown was decommissioned and the land was acquired in 1948 by the City of Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, now the University of Texas at Brownsville. The old parade ground which once resonated with the sound of horse hooves and brass fanfares has long disappeared from Brownsville's public memory.

* * *

Just right of center are two bandsmen
whose instruments are difficult to see clearly.
The one on the left is the piccolo player.
Like General Pershing and Col. Morgan,
he wears a Sam Browne belt,
but it has an extra clip to hold his small instrument.

The soldier on the right
has an instrument that is
technically more military than musical.
Just to the left of his horse's head
we can see the hilt of his cavalry saber.
He is the drum major
who leads the mounted band
when it performs on parade.  

Washington D.C. Evening Star
4 January 1904

In January 1904, the Army general staff issued a new order that said:

    "Ordnance officers of posts will issue, upon proper requisition, revolvers and ammunition and equipments therefor to the proper officers for the use of bands, trumpeters and musicians and sabers for the use of drum majors and mounted bands.
    "Revolvers and ammunition and equipments therefor will be kept by these officers in store for use by all bandsmen, trumpeters and musicians when they take the field and for use in case of emergencies. The cavalry sabers will be issed to drum majors and mounted bands, and will be carried by them at all times when on duty"

* * *

* * *

This month I received a copy of a wonderful book
by Bruce P. Gleason on the history
of American mounted military bands.
I'm very proud to say that the image used for the front cover
is an extraordinary photograph from my collection
that I featured in my story from May 2010
about the 11th U.S. Cavalry Band.

The drum major leading his mounted band as it wheeled
on the parade ground of Fort Des Moines, Iowa
is brandishing a new regulation musical weapon
as the photo was taken in 1904.
It's also quite possible
that one of those 11th Cavalry musicians
was named Wilford G. Archambault,
who 30 years later would become
bandmaster of the 12th U.S. Cavalry Band.
Just another of those strange coincidences of history
that turn up if you keeping digging.

The book is entitled:

Sound the Trumpet
Beat the Drums

Horse-Mounted Bands
of the U. S. Army, 1820-1940

by Bruce P. Gleason

Bruce P. Gleason is Associate Professor of Music Education and Music History at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the founding editor of Research and Issues in Music Education. His numerous articles have been published in the Journal of Band Research, Military History Quarterly, National Guard Magazine, the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, and other journals.
Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums:
Horse-Mounted Bands of the U.S. Army, 1820–1940
Published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
ISBN-10: 0806154799
ISBN-13: 978-0806154794.
available in hardcover at Amazon and other bookstores.

This is my contribution to October's Sepia Saturday
where everyone is on the move.

Master Harry Barreuther - Boy Cellist

30 September 2016

It almost looks
like a trick photo.
A young boy dressed
in a sailor suit
stands with his arm
draped comradely around
what appears to be
an enormous violin.
Of course it's not a violin
but a violoncello.
the photographer
knew what he was doing
by accentuating
the novelty effect
of a small boy
who played a very large instrument,
the cello.

The photographer was Charles Eisenmann of New York, a German immigrant who was famous for taking promotional pictures of theatrical artists and circus performers. His Bowery studio ran from 1876 to 1898, and Eisenmann's most collectible photos are of the "human oddities" that were featured in the popular dime museums and carnival side shows of the era. But Eisenmann also produced photos of young musicians like Master Eddie Derville - Cornet Soloist, and another unknown boy cellist in Musical Children at Work

The boy cellist in this cabinet card was also unidentified, but I when I acquired his photo I recognized the cut of his sailor suit from another cabinet photo in my collection where his entire family posed for Mr. Eisenmann's camera.

_ _

This family's portrait shows a mother and father with their five children, three girls and two boys. The father and one son, also in a matching sailor suit, hold violins, and the younger son stands next to a cello. It is clearly the same child who had his individual photo taken on the same day in Eisenmann's studio. Even the maroon colored card stock with scalloped edges is the same. 

But I still did not know the family's name and my hunch that they might be a traveling family troupe of musicians was based only on the photographer's reputation. Then a year later I bought a second photo of the family, identical to this one but on an ivory stock paper. It included a rare piece of ephemera on a single piece of paper – a concert program.

Printed with wonderful typeface the program is entitled:

Barreuther Familien Concert.

The concert is in two parts with thirteen numbers written in German script. It begins with 1. Parlor Overture by H. Barreuther and ends with 13. National Songs of America, France, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Russia, as arranged by H. Barreuther. Three children are named, Katie and Harry, and Fritz on violin. The printer was the German-American Publishing Co. of Holyoke, Mass. There is no date or place. At the bottom is a notice in German which says:

Changes are made when an organ is to be used, or where the family plays a second time

_ _

The style of these cabinet cards put the family into the infamous dark hole of American genealogy, the 1890s, which is the missing decade of US Census records, destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1921. Fortunately they were still together in 1900 when Henry Barreuther was listed as head of household in the U.S. Census records of Brooklyn, NY. 

1900 US Census - Brooklyn NY
Henry Barreuther was age 62, born in Germany in June 1837. His wife was Louisa Barreuther, age 49, also born in Germany. Their children were all born in Connecticut and listed in descending order of age: Matilda, age 26; Frederick, age 24; Freda, age 23; Kathie(rine), age 21, and Henry, born in December 1881 and now age 18.  They were renting a house in Brooklyn at 752 Madison St. The father Henry listed his occupation as Teacher Music. Frederick was a Job Printer, Kathie, a Stenographer, and Henry Jr. an Electrician.   

752 Madison St., Brooklyn NY.
Google Street View 2012

Springfield MA Republican
29 September 1889
In September 1889, the Springfield, MA Republican printed a short review of a concert given in a local music store.

The Barreuther family of musicians on their way from Winsted, Ct. to Florence, where they will appear to-night, stopped in this city yesterday forenoon and gave a pleasing informal recital at Hutchins's music-house. The family consists of seven persons, and the youngest child, Harry, a seven year-old-old, is the most remarkable. His performance of the 'cello part in the overture-medley, made up from the overtures of  “Poet and Peasant,” “Zampa” and “Lohengrin,” as also in the solo, “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep,” would have been creditable to an artist of much greater age. The medley, “Chestnuts,” was played with much earnestness. His brother, Fritz, aged 14. who accompanied him with violin, was more serious in his work. The girls, Mathilda, Frida and Kate, played good piano accompaniments. The father has been a teacher of music and German in the vicinity of Winsted for some years and now wishes by means of concerts to raise sufficient money to take his family to Germany for the further development of their talent. A movement is on foot to have them heard here in a few weeks under the auspices of the Knights of Pythias, the head of the household being a member of that order.

That September, Henry (Harry) was just coming up to his 8th birthday in December. This report with its exceptional detail was the oldest record I could find of the Barreuther family performances. So I think the Eisenmann photographs were made in 1889-1890 and show Harry Barreuther, boy cellist at about age 8.

_ _

Boston MA Herald
11 March 1890

The following March in 1890, Henry Sr. ran a classified ad in the Boston Herald offering the Barreuther Family to supply a refined musical entertainment to private parties, churches, lyceums and organization of good standing in and around Boston.

In the 1880s the German-American community was the largest foreign national group in the US. The decade between 1881 and 1890 saw the greatest influx when 1,452,970 Germans immigrated to the United States. Their influence was everywhere from small farming towns to industrial cities. Nearly every metropolitan area had German societies that advocated and encouraged German culture. The musician rosters of the major 19th century American orchestras were predominantly of German names. The reason the Barreuther family printed a program in German was because their audience preferred to read in their native language.   

Boston Herald
04 March 1890

That spring the Barreuthers played at famous impresario B. F. Keith's Gaiety Theatre in Boston. They headed the program as instrumental and vocal soloists, followed by R. G. Knowles, the eccentric comedian. Vic Laiscelie, the well known equilibrist, demonstrated his daring chair tower act. The comedians, vocalists, and dancers, Moore and Vivian, shared applause with Pickert and Mayon, champion solo dancers, and the double trapeze bar act of Castor and Corriea. Healy and Costeilo, the American novelty team were up to the average, and Thomas Lord, Irish comedian deserves mention. The finest feature of the bill was the contortion act of Rexo and Reno. And there was Mej. Gleason, novelty drill artist, and the skaters Chase and Carrie Moore.

The theater performance closed with a domestic comedy farce called “Trapped.”     

_ _

The Barreuthers seem to have enjoyed some success traveling over a small circuit of theaters, churches, and fraternal halls. I was unable to find any newspaper reports beyond the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York region. Presumably they kept their home in Winsted, CT and arranged tours to coincide with school breaks. 

The following year there was a report that had nothing to do with music, but the Barreuther name did become an item in newspapers from New York to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles CA Herald
12 April 1891

In April 1891, a Miss Louise Barreuther killed a large racoon she found in the chicken coop. At sixteen and one-half pounds it was remarkable enough to be newsworthy for a week. What ties it to Henry Barreuther is that the report included Louise's address on Pratt St. in Winsted, CT. This may have been the middle name of one of Henry's daughters, or perhaps only a cousin from Winsted. 

_ _

Greenfield MA Gazette
26 June 1891

That summer in 1891, the Barreuther Family gave a vocal and instrumental concert at the Grand Army Hall in Greenfield, MA. The advertisement promoted little eight-year-old Harry, the only and first prodigy on the bass. Harry, now closer to age ten than eight, had eceived the highest compliments of P. Gilmore, Patrick Gilmore (1829-1892), the celebrated band leader, and Mrs Kendal, Dame Madge Kendal (1848-1935), the noted English actress.  Admission cost 25¢, reserved seats 35¢, children 15¢.
The notices of the Barreuther concerts, which are very few, were scattered over the years 1889 to 1896. At some point the family moved to Brooklyn, where Henry Barreuther continued to teach music and German.

_ _

This next boy cellist is a cdv photo also taken at the Eisenmann studio of New York. There is no name but I believe it is Harry Barreuther, again standing next to his cello, but now older by a few years. Instead of a sailor suit he wears a velveteen or satin jacket with short pants. Note his theatrical slippers. His hair is combed  and oiled but I think the ears, chin, and mouth match a maturing child.  The cello is also a very close match.

Because of its string tuning, the violoncello only comes in one size which makes it difficult for a child to hold it between their knees like an adult would do. An alternate technique would be for a child to stand and play the cello like a double bass. In both photos the way the end pin is extended suggest that was how Harry Barreuther performed. 

_ _

_ _

Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle
02 February 1909

Henry Barreuther (the father), died of apoplexy in Brooklyn on Sunday, January 31, 1909. His obituary noted that he was a band leader and teacher of music. Born in 1837 in Germany he came to Brooklyn twenty years earlier from Winsted, Conn. He was a member of the Unity Council, Knights of Pythias, and the Greene Avenue Presbyterian Church. He was survived by his wife Louisa Schoenbein, two sons, Henry and Frederick, and three daughters, Mathilda, Frida, and Katherine.

In the 1900s Frederick Barreuther moved to Brattleboro, Vermont where, like his father, he pursued a career as a music teacher, especially of the violin. Henry "Harry" Barreuther continued on cello and was occasionally listed as a recital soloist in the New York City area. In 1916 he was cello soloist with the Kriens Symphony Club orchestra of 100 musicians who played in the auditorium of Wanamaker's New York City department store. At the beginning of the radio age in 1928, he was listed on the schedule of radio station WNYC Manhattan playing with the Brooklyn Trio from 9:30 PM to 10:00 PM. The trio's violinist was Anthony Carrello, and the pianist was Frieda Weber, whom I suspect was Henry sister.  

In the 1920 census, Henry was age 38 and had a wife, Irene. He listed his occupation as Photographer Portraits. His draft card for 1917 and 1942 listed his occupation as photographer. Perhaps the exposure, so to speak, to Charles Eisenmann's photography studio made a strong impression on young Harry. In the archives of the Library of Congress is a small collection of very large landscape photographs taken by Henry Barreuther between 1912 and 1917 in Connecticut and Vermont. This is a photo of Highland Lake, Winsted, Conn. made in 1914 by Henry Barreuther as signed in the center caption. Likely it was a place the Barreuther family knew well. A family of musicians, climbing up to the top of the hill, singing German folk songs. Sounds like a great idea for a movie.

{click the image to enlarge}

According to Social Security records, Henry Barruether of Brooklyn died in 1966.
He took good photos.

This is my contribution to September's Sepia Saturday
where work and play have no boundaries.

The Wedding Alphorn

17 September 2016

Today is the day.
Today is The Day!
From mountain high
to valley low,

Some composers can write a tune at the drop of a hat.
Some need the inspiration of a beautiful place
or a special occasion. 

Three weeks ago today, I found inspiration
to perform an original alphorn call,
composed by yours truly,
and inspired by both place and occasion,
and two people I love.

The place was on a former dairy farm
underneath the shadow of the
southern Appalachian mountains.
And the occasion was the wedding
of my son, Sam Brubaker, and his bride, Elina Thomas. 

My simple tune was constrained
by the alphorn's limited scale and notes.
Cows of the Alps or the Appalachians
do not care for complicated chromatic music,
and prefer rustic melodies that are easy to remember.
Sensible cows also recognize
that the steep mountain slopes
rule out any square dancing.
Consequently they prefer
the mellifluous sound of the alphorn 
to the jarring noise of the banjo.
Therefore alphorn players
really only have to play slow songs.
And only down hill.

What the wedding guests could not know,
since I had no time to prepare a proper alpine choir,
was that my wedding alphorn call had words.




Today is the day.
Today is The Day!
From mountain high
to valley low,

 Elina and Sam.
Today is their day!
We wish them love
and happiness,

The reception required an encore
for the happy couple
and another song too.
This time sung and not played
as it is in a minor key
whose notes are not available on the alphorn.
I was merely the lyricist,
motivated to invent this educational song
when my son was age two
riding in the backseat of my truck.

It is based on the children's round tune
"Bruder Jakob"
more commonly known
as "Frère Jacques";
that Gustave Mahler used
in the third movement
of his Symphony No. 1.

It is suitable for all ages.

Do not whimper,
do not whimper.
Do not whine,
do not whine!
Please refrain from crying,
please refrain from crying.
Do not scream.
Do not scream!

On August 27, 2016
My son and I posed with our faithful family tractor,
cleaned up special for the celebration.

This is my belated contribution
to the August edition
of Sepia Saturday
where there are no rules,
only the love of good stories.

Master Eddie Derville - Cornet Soloist

09 September 2016

This kid's a real professional.
His confident gaze,
his relaxed demeanor
exhibit all the traits
of a musician
who's got chops.
Who knows
that he can play,
and play well.

His instrument?
The premier
musical instrument
of the 19th century,
the cornet.

It can't be more than an hour
since he got off a barber's chair.
  Hair neatly oiled and combed,
we can almost smell the
rose water and witch hazel.
His velvet jacket is trimmed
with the folded ribbons
and toggle buttons
characteristic of
a British bandsman's uniform.
His silver B-flat cornet gleams
in the photographer's studio light.

This is boy with a very high class portrait.


The photographer was Charles Eisenmann of 229 Bowery, N. Y. whose wonderful trademark design is printed on the back. A gallant photographer leaps across a globe faintly labeled Instantaneous Photographs.  Camera in his arms, the figure pulls the lens cap off to take the world's picture. (Snap shutters on cameras were a late development.)

This cabinet card photograph was made at Eisenmann's branch gallery at 18 West 14th Str. in New York. Eisenmann made a specialty of photographing people of the theater and circus world who passed through New York's Bowery theater district.

Last week I featured another young musician's publicity photo from this studio in my story, Musical Children at Work. That drummer boy/tuba player/cellist posed for a smaller cdv photo in the 1870s and was unidentified. This boy cornetist is on a larger format made about 10 years later and has a priceless penciled name in the top corner.

Edie Derville

Boston Herald
27 January 1883
In January 1883, Eddie Derville, the Great Musical Wonder, made his first reappearance in Boston at the Howard Athenæum theater. The newspaper advertisement called it a reappearance because earlier that week the police commissioner had forbidden the theater manager from letting an eight year old child perform on stage. After some negotiation (and undoubtedly some exchange of money,) Boston officials permitted Eddie to play as a special feature rather than as part of the regular show. With suitable hyperbole the advert claimed Eddie Derville was The Youngest Cornet Soloist In The World.  

Child labor laws were a new kind of progressive regulation that started with the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Founded in 1875 by Henry Bergh, ironically the same man who in 1866 founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the NYSPCC was organized as a child protective agency for the many abused and overworked children living in  New York City. Three years later in 1878, Bergh, set up the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children with the same worthy goals of protecting children and advocating for child labor laws.

Most working children in the mid-19th century toiled at low wage jobs in sweatshops, mines, and factories, but the era also saw a proliferation of theaters which engaged thousands of acts that included children. Theaters, music halls, and dime museums were never considered reputable establishments for respectable women and children. Child entertainers were subject to rough hours, poor pay, and often abusive working conditions, and a child's life on the stage was also contrary to any idea of a proper education. By the 1880s many big city politicians recognized that restricting child performers from playing in the bawdy environments of the music halls and taverns made good political theater too, so the prohibition against young Eddie's cornet playing was not unusual. In fact it may have been "arranged" just for the publicity.  

Boston Globe
23 January 1883

Two Irish entrepreneurs, Wheatly and Traynor,  presented the variety show program at the Howard Athenæum. There was Ned Lang and Viola Rose in their Dutch sketches with songs and dances. Messrs. Fox and Ward followed with clog dancing. Fannie Beane and Charles Gilday offered a not very good sketch called "The Servants' Holiday." But little Eddie Derville, the boy wonder, in his cornet solos is simply "immense" and deserves more than a passing notice. His rendition of the "Ah! che la morte" (from Verdi's Il Trovatore) was specially fine.

The show continued with Harry Kennedy, a ventriloquist; McIntire and Heath with plantation pastimes (i.e. blackface minstrels); Miss Malvina Renner with her Swiss warbling songs; the O'Brian Brothers doing gymnastics exercises; Charles F. Hoey in his eccentricities; and Frank Bush, the inimitable Hebrew impersonator.  The evening concluded with a comic farce, entitled "Forty Winks."

Even if he didn't participate in the last number, little Eddie probably wasn't tucked into bed for his 40 winks until well after 11 PM.


Eddie was the son of Frank Derville, an English musician/actor who with his wife Lucy immigrated to Canada in the 1870s, where Eddie was born in Toronto. Around 1880, Frank moved his family to Ashburnham, MA, northwest of Boston where he was employed as the local band leader. Typical of many bandmaster's children, his son learned to play the cornet at a very early age and soon became accomplished enough to appear on band concerts with his father in 1882. Newspaper reports said Master Teddy was 12 years old but he was actually age 9. Years later, when Eddie reported to his local draft board, he gave his date of birth as August 14, 1873.

By December 1882, Frank quit his band job and with his wife and three children embarked on a family career in show business. Eddie was the oldest, but his younger sister Katie had some talent, and the baby Lottie could at least add a cuteness value.

Boston Sunday Globe
12 August 1883

Clipped to his jacket is a heavy watch chain  with a wildcat fob. I suspect this has some symbolism for a fraternal society which I've not been able to identify. Eddie's B-flat cornet has the right sepia tone for a silver instrument, and Eisenmann's camera almost picks up the splendid engraved decoration and letters on the bell. It is likely that this instrument is the one he received on August 11, 1883 as a birthday gift from an admirer, Mr. William J. Regan. It was a handsomely engraved silver cornet, gold mounted. with pearl-topped valves, valued at $150.

Cornet players were by far the most photographed musicians of the 19th century. In this age before recorded sound, every village, town, and city in America boasted of its local cornet soloist. The most celebrated cornet artists toured the country with their own bands performing to great acclaim. For youthful musical talents like Master Eddie, the challenge was to make it big while they were still young, and in the 1880s boy cornetists were a pretty competitive field. Besides Eddie Derville, newspapers in the 1880s heralded concerts by several young cornet players like Will A. Cushing, Master Johnny Skelton, and Clarence Worrall. All were boys between age 8 and 18 who traveled along the ever expanding vaudeville circuit. 


Boston Globe
19 June 1885

Frank Derville played cornet too, and likely found other musical employment in the Boston area. In the years 1883-84, his son Eddie was a regular feature on Boston's theater stages.

In 1885, Frank and Eddie joined the ranks of a Boston gospel temperance evangelist to perform at public meetings. The Dervilles probably considered it good publicity to be connected with a well-known preacher, but unfortunately, as we will see, Frank's pledge to the temperance cause was less than sincere.


Philadelphia Times
24 January 1886

Frank and his wife Lucy, (sometime called Lou,) also fancied themselves as comedic actors. Many family bands developed skits suitable for displaying both their musical and acting talents. The Dervilles called their bit "The Family Rehearsal." These early vaudeville revues were a flamboyant mix of music and stunts, interspersed with short melodramas and comic sketches. Anything that attracted a paying audience was good.

Beginning around June/July 1885, the Derville Family began touring as a troupe of five, joining a traveling show that played Leadville, Colorado.  By January 1886 Frank, Lou, Eddie, Katie, and Lottie appeared at the lecture hall of Forepaugh's Theatre and Museum in Philadelphia. They opened for an Irish melodrama in five acts entitled "Collen  Bawn." The Derville act included Masterly Instrumental Musicians, Vocalists, Dnacers, Comedians, and Mimics


St Paul MN Globe
23 May 1886

If his birthday of August 14, 1873 was truthful, Eddie would be 12 going on 13 in 1886. This is when I think the Dervilles stopped in New York to have Eddie pose for Mr. Eisenmann's camera. A good publicity photo was just the thing to send to theater managers or sell to adoring fans. That year they played in Washington, DC; Petersburg, VA; Chicago; St. Paul, MN; Trenton, NJ; Buffalo, NY.

In St. Paul the Derville Family was listed on the playbill for Sackett & Wiggins' Mammoth Amusement Palace. People could see novelties like the Turtle Boy from the Florida Keys or the perfect incubator hatching eggs by artificial means. There was the Mysterious Cabinet magic act; the Swiss bell ringers; the Langan Drum Corps. The Derville Family were the famous English Vaudeville Artists. Admission was a dime, opera chairs cost an extra nickel.


San Francisco Chronicle
01 May, 1887

The beginning of 1887 saw them on the West Coast in San Fransisco and Seattle. The Derville family were now six in number with the addition of another son, Jack F. Derville, the comical Baby Derville. Eddie was promoted as "The Boy LEVY" alluding to the celebrated English cornet soloist of the time, Jules Levy (1838-1903).

It was about this time that the Dervilles decided to settle down in a small village called Steilacoom just down the coast from Tacoma, Washington. They continued with tours to Idaho, Montana, Iowa, Colorado, and California but it was clear that the novelty of travel was wearing off. In the Washinton state census of 1892, the Dervilles were now seven, with another child, a daughter age 3. Eddie was 18, Katie 15, and Frank Derville listed his occupation as musician. Eddie began appearing as a cornet soloist on the programs of band concerts in Seattle and Tacoma.


Riverside CA News
15 January 1895

The price of celebrity often brings with it fame and infamy in equal measure. Theatrical families were an easy source of fillers for the dense pages of America's newspapers. The stranger the news, the better.

In January 1895 the Riverside, California News reported that on the street of Steilacoom, WA (the population was only 290)  Mrs. Frank Derville took a horsewhip to a young man she deemed was making improper advances on her daughter Katie.  Mrs. Derville was noted as the mother of the famous Derville Family which toured the country as a musical organization. Katie was 17 years old, and played the coronet and violin.  

The next year in 1886, the newspaper of Anaconda, Montana reported that Frank Derville had purchased a steam yacht. Montanans probably didn't appreciate the coastline of Washington with its tangled maze of islands, bays, and sounds. A steam powered boat would actually make a very practical craft to quickly get around the Seattle area by water rather than traveling by road. The yacht could accommodate a dozen people and Engineer Russ was instructing Eddie Derville in its management. It could make eight knots. The Dervilles were scheduled for a performance in Anaconda that October.

Barely a year later, Frank placed a For Sale notice in the Seattle newspaper offering his steam pleasure launch as a bargain of a lifetime. He was heading for the Klondike. The price was for nearly half the cost of the engine.

Seattle Daily Times
26 September 1897


  A pause for intermission  

At this point the story of Eddie Derville, the boy wonder of the cornet, and his musical family is only an outline of a life. Using the vast internet archives I can construct the framework of a family; fill in dates and names; and with a liberal allowance of speculation, even recreate a bit of Eddie's historical context. But I know that it's only the briefest sketch of a person. As much as I admire Eddie's handsome photograph and try to understand what he was, I really can't write his full biography. The ephemera of his family's private life is just not available for us to ever know the real person.  

So I write this as a preface
to the last news clippings of the Dervilles
when their family story takes a very grim turn.

Tacoma WA Daily News
30 May 1898

On a Saturday evening, the 28th of May 1898, Frank Derville returned to his home in Steilacoom drunk and in a foul mood. He and his wife Lucy began to argue and Frank became violent, kicked over a table, smashed dishes, and attempted to beat her.

The town constable was called and he managed to take Frank away to cool down. With a promise to behave, he was released, but when he went back inside the house he began swearing vengeance at his wife. At that moment the youngest boy, Jack Derville, came into the kitchen just as his father was about to strike his mother with a chair. The boy rushed to another room where his father kept a revolver and returned to shoot his father in the back, killing him almost instantly.

Frank Derville was 61. His wife Lucy was 42. Their son Jack Derville was 13 years old.


San Francisco Chronicle
30 May 1898

This tragic story ran in newspapers across the country. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Frank threatened to kill his wife with a knife. Derville was known to go on an occasional drunken spree, which aroused his combative tendencies...Too drunk to know what he was about, he seized an ordinary table knife, brandished it and threatened to kill his wife. She did not realize that he was perfectly harmless and began screaming.

Other newspapers condensed the dramatic action into a single paragraph. The facts began to change. Frank drew a big knife and rushed his wife. Jack Derville was 12 years old. The boy was arrested. The boy was not arrested.  The boy fired a shotgun. The people of the town consider the killing justifiable.

I believe the Tacoma Daily News likely got most of the facts straight. I certainly hope that I've managed to avoid making any mistakes retelling the account of this family's terrible misfortune.   

There was no mention of Eddie or the other Derville siblings. Frank is described as a kind father when sober, of good disposition who treated his family wellexcept when under the influence of liquor when he became hard to get along with.

There are many things we can never know or understand. But we can see that the comical Baby Derville of 1887 was sadly destined to become the pitiful son Jack of 1898.



A month later at the end of June 1898, Frank Derville's estate was taken to probate court. His last will and testament (which is available in,) brought the Dervilles to the attention of America's newspapers one last time. Frank left everything to his wife, but he blocked his oldest daughter Catherine "Katie" Derville from ever receiving any inheritance. Her sin? Running off to Montana to marry that horsewhipped young man deemed unacceptable. 

The year 1898 ended on a happier note when on December 1, the other sister, Lottie Derville, married a man from Tacoma. The wedding notice said the bride possessed an unusually fine contralto voice and delighted the guests at the reception by performing an impromptu concert of opera selections.

The unfortunate widow Lucy Derville married a second time in 1904, and from the few records I found seems to have lived to great age of nearly 100. Her youngest children also survived into the post-WW1 years.

Eddie's talent on the cornet kept him in a career in music. In the 1900s he moved to Butte, MT where he got married and worked as a music teacher. By the war years he was in Idaho, leading a small theater band that accompanied silent movies. In the 1930s he lived in California still working as a musician.

Eddie's brother, Jack F. Derville, moved to Butte, Montana. In a strange twist of irony, he became a champion marksman, winning a position on a rifle team that represented Montana at a national shooting competition in 1919. And if that wasn't ironic enough, in 1931 a Frank Derville was arrested at Bear Creek, MT for making moonshine. He had a 50-gallon still, some mash, 40 gallons of whisky, and 140 gallons of wine.

This is my contribution to September's Sepia Saturday
where life is work, no matter the age or year.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP